Ryan Benjamin, one of our COBRA colleagues from Guyana, reports on his recent trip to Matavén, Colombia. Ryan summaries the visits to the communities of Porto Cacão and Laguna Colarada, discussing the training sessions, the willingness of the participants and, of course, the food.
Leaving our base in the Rupununi, myself and Bernie, a work colleague on the COBRA Project, joined a 15 seater plane from Annai to Ogle. The journey lasts about 90 minutes before reaching Georgetown. After completing our normal logistical review with our project partner Iwokrama International Centre, we were all set for our trip to Colombia. I was worried about communicating with our Spanish-speaking colleagues, but we were fortunate enough to be joined by Celine – whose excellent Spanish would prove to be invaluable on our trip.
Leaving Guyana, from the international airport at Timehri, we were soon on our way to Columbia, another of Guiana Shield countries participating in COBRA. We were on our mission to share best practices with, and learn new skills from, the people of the remote community of Matavén.
The journey was fine until our arrival in Columbia, where travelling internally from one place to the next resulted in long delays and was quite a different experience to travelling within Guyana.
It seemed strange to travel from Bogota to Matavén in a large 80 seater plane. Visiting the more remote communities of the Guiana Shield, I had grown accustomed to travelling in much smaller planes. It almost seemed as if were visiting a different country, and indeed Matavén proved to be very remote from the busy urban centre of Bogota.
Bernie and I visited two communities in Matavén. The first was Porto Cacão, which is a three-and-a-half hour journey by boat from Puerto Inirida, the nearest town. We met with community leaders to discuss the best practice exchange between the North Rupununi and Matavén. This meeting was initiated by the UNDP Colombia and ACATISEMA, the governing body of the Matavén forest. Together, we discussed governance and capacity building within the region. ACATISEMA were particularly interested in the success of the North Rupununi District Development Board as a method of local governance. We were happy to share our best practice videos, and the community representatives from Matavén seemed very impressed by our work.
Following this successful meeting, the COBRA team then took a five-and-a-half hour boat trip to the village of Laguna Colarada, where we spent four days training community members in our approach. Owing to the remoteness of the community, this was one of our shortest training sessions. We also had a large number of participants: more than 20 showed up on each of the four days. Fortunately, they were very engaged in the training, and we were able to storyboard and capture footage relatively easily. However, editing became difficult as many participants had never used a computer before. Even though this was quite stressful for Celine, Bernie and I, the enthusiasm and engagement of the participants made the trip worthwhile.
I particularly enjoyed the food in Laguna Colarada – delicious chicken and very fresh fish soup, as well as tasty plantain!
On our journey home we encountered increased security at the airport due to a fellow passenger attempting to smuggle drugs across the border. We felt like we were in a live action movie! But it was scary and at that point I was hoping that we would soon be allowed to continue our journey. Fortunately, we were soon able to board our flight and had an enjoyable journey back to Guyana.